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Leefstyl | Lifestyle > Geestelik | Spiritual > What has ruined our Zeitgeist?

What has ruined our Zeitgeist?

Cobus Fourie - 2009-07-15

I mused a bit. Only a bit. It is thus an impromptu discussion of the two main actors complicit in the social dilemmas the world is facing.

I have two culprits: religious fundamentalism and moral relativism.

In my humble philosophically untrained view the former was caused by the latter.

Religion used to dictate private moral choices and clerics very devoutly felt it was their god-ordained occupation to save normal folk from their sinful selves. Hence dogma was used to control the citizenry and to secure obedience to whatever precept these clerics found morally righteous based on their very obviously subjective interpretation of their religious texts. Hence populist opinion of the clergy served as social standards. And no one dared to breach these as that would have entailed being declared a heretic and burnt at the stake for all the townsfolk to see and thus by negative reinforcement to instil fear and maintain compliance.

Then appeared the Protestant Reformation and subsequently books were banned, witch-hunts took place. The non-conformists had to flee to a so-called Protestant country for refuge. And many died as consequence of having beliefs other than those prevailing at the time.

Anne Boleyn, labelled by Tori Amos as the "illicit mistress of the Protestant Reformation", was key to importing Protestantism into England. And from there it spread throughout the globe as Britain maintained it Imperialist policies.

Still countries were governed by monarchs in principle of the official state religion. There were only a few more options; to oversimplify it.

I will be equally populist and provide the bridge between aforementioned former and latter from our beloved Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Separation_of_church_and_state.

Separation of church and state is a political and legal doctrine that government and religious institutions are to be kept separate and independent from each other. The term most often refers to the combination of two principles: secularity of government and freedom of religious exercise.

(…) The phrase separation of church and state is generally traced to the letter written by Thomas Jefferson in 1802 to the Danbury Baptists, in which he referred to the First Amendment to the United States Constitution as creating a "wall of separation" between church and state. The phrase was then quoted by the United States Supreme Court first in 1878, and then in a series of cases starting in 1948. This led to increased popular and political discussion of the concept.

The concept has since been adopted in a number of countries, to varying degrees depending on the applicable legal structures and prevalent views toward the proper role of religion in society. A similar principle of laïcité has been applied in France and Turkey, while some socially secularized countries such as Norway have maintained constitutional recognition of an official state religion. The concept parallels various other international social and political ideas, including secularism, disestablishment, religious liberty, and religious pluralism.

The separation between church and state doctrine hence paved the way for moral relativism, in my humble opinion. What is good for one religion is not necessarily good for another and the fact that religious pluralism was guaranteed under said doctrine meant no religion could be placed above another, hence moral relativism as religion tends to occupy itself with morality a lot.

It seems we have the Americans to thank for the equality we have in nations of diverse cultures and religions such as Afrique du Sud. Yet at the moment the Americans are worse off than South Africans in terms of equality of historically persecuted minorities. It is thus a strange turn of events which ushered in the age of religious fundamentalism.

It went so hideously pear-shaped in America that, as I in read the following news report on Wednesday, 18 February 2009: " Westboro Baptist Church, a tiny sect based in Kansas, often picket funerals in the US. They claim God is punishing the world because homosexuality is tolerated.”

They went further into the abyss with the most incomprehensibly appalling statements that I have ever seen in my entire life (and I am truly sorry to expose you to this):

"In Merry Old England they plan to further enrage the Living God by putting on the farce known commonly as The Laramie Project," WBC said on its website; and furthermore:

We will picket them, and see if they actually believe those lies they tell about how tolerant and accepting Brits are.

God Hates England; Your Queen Is A Whore; You Hate God; God Hates You; You're Going to Hell; Matt Is In Hell; Hell Is Real Ask Matt; God Hates Fags (Buggers); Obey God, etc.

Some of the best Bible preaching in the history of the world came out of that dark dismal land, but now it is full of all abominations!

God will shortly destroy the UK and the world, but not until they have gotten the plain, clear message so that they will be WITHOUT EXCUSE!

The origins of the gripe:

The group first came to prominence more than a decade ago when they protested at the funeral of murdered gay man Matthew Shepard.

In October 1998 Matthew was kidnapped, severely beaten and left to die, tied to a fence on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming.

Five weeks later members of the Tectonic Theatre Project went to Laramie, and over the course of the next year, conducted more than 200 interviews with people of the town.

From these interviews they wrote the play The Laramie Project, a chronicle of the life of the town in the year after the murder. WBC claimed that a student production tomorrow night in Basingstoke was to be the target of WBC's first UK protest.

Are these so obviously deranged people so angered by secularism, religious pluralism, the separation between church and state and moral relativism that it drives them to plunge their religion into the most abysmal shame?

Do not think we are unscathed in South Africa; we have the ACDP and the CDA and other minorities and although I do not think they will stoop to the level of the WBC, they still do not like secularism and in their election manifestos brag about their contempt for the LGBTIQ community and equal human rights.

And in a shock move on 20 February 2009 the Congress of the People – a secular party which in official documents shunned narrow patriarchal notions and included protection on the basis of sexual orientation in their equality clauses – announced their presidential candidate: a bishop … May he live up to be as great and accepting person as the honourable Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is. Only time will tell.

But religion and politics are like oil and water: they don’t and shouldn’t mix.

Moral relativity is what gave us LGBTIQ equality, non-discrimination and the end of persecution on that basis.

Religious fundamentalism seems to be the resentful and self-righteous counterbalance of those who believe that some are more equal than others and some should be deprived of their humanity based on objective interpretations.

We live in Orwellian times indeed.

Cobus Fourie
Board Member
The South African Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation